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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 20th December 2019.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West 1:46 pm, 20th December 2019

It is clear that the Conservatives overwhelmingly won the election for a variety of reasons, but on the Brexit front it is also the case that 16.5 million people voted for remain parties, compared with 14.5 million people who voted for leave parties. In fact, including the parties that do not support a particular deal—namely, the Brexit party—there are 18.1 million people who do not support this oven-ready deal that we are being served up and asked to consume very quickly today. On that basis, there still should be a public vote on the deal, because this is about the long-term future of Britain. [Interruption.] I know that people do not agree with me, but my judgment is that we are going to be poorer, weaker, more divided and isolated.

People in my constituency who voted leave—many did, of course—voted for more money, more control and more jobs, and they will judge this deal on whether the Government deliver that. I say to Members who have taken Labour seats on the back of “Get Brexit done” that if we do not deliver those things that leave voters asked for, they will be very unhappy. In fact, they will not just be unhappy; they will have lost their jobs, and I assume that they will come back to the Labour party.

We are leaving the single market, one of the primary architects of which was, of course, Margaret Thatcher, who saw it as probably the most perfect free and fair trade market in the world. Today we are saying not just that we will have no alignment—or that we will not have dynamic alignment—but that we will have dynamic misalignment. In other words, as the European Union changes its rules, we will change our rules in a different way. That means the prospects of agreeing a deal within 12 months will become vanishingly small, and the prospects of knowing that we will agree a deal in six months—by June—are even smaller.

China, the United States and other countries will look at us and see that we are increasingly turning our back on our biggest markets, and that gives them more power in negotiations. We stand alone, turning our back on the EU, and when we talk to the United States they will say that they do not want any environmental or climate change considerations in the trade deals, as they already have. They do not really care that much about food standards; they want hormone-impregnated meat and chlorinated chicken. They want our NHS database and to enforce patents so that drugs will be more expensive. They also sell asbestos and all the rest of it. As we move away from the regulatory protection of the EU, we are in their hands.

When we have trade talks with China, we will obviously have to be on bended knee. They will say, “Don’t mention human rights, Hong Kong and all that sort of stuff. Just stick to the point and do what we say.” They are already building HS2 and a lot of other infrastructure here. If this is about democracy, it is important that Parliament has greater scrutiny of these trade deals and that we go into these things with our eyes open.

Finally, on human rights, I am very concerned about the issue of unaccompanied minors. Frankly, it has a strange echo of Donald Trump, who has separated children from their parents who are refugees and put them in detention camps—our great friend, Donald Trump. At the same time, we see in the Queen’s Speech the abolition of the BBC, and the civil service and the judiciary are also under threat. Our fundamental values shared across Europe of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are under threat. All new Members must think carefully about what is in the balance here. I know that they are driving through in great merriment on the back of “Get Brexit done”, in pre-Christmas pantomime mode, but we need to think about what is best for Britain and best for democracy, and that means proper scrutiny of this Bill.